Just “Preach the Word”?

“Just preach the Word”. “Sola Scriptura”. How many times have we heard this said as rationale for more teaching? More information? Or more programs? Is the Word of God powerful and life changing? Yes. But at what point is a person over taught and the Word under applied? Is it possible to give so much information about God that people become confused in what it means to love God? Or live for God? 

Each week a shrinking percentage of Americans attend church where they might hear the Word and perhaps glean additional information about God. But it seems, most of them leave unchanged. They have participated in religious expression without transformation. 

The purpose of preaching should always be transformation – the transformation of a person’s entire being. In other words, information that causes “in” “formation”. Information without “in” “formation” is useless. Jesus longs to bring “in” “formation” to every hearer of His Word. 

In order to bring great “in” “formation”, we need to teach less (quantitative) to impart more (qualitative). To impart more, messengers of the truth need to minimize the amount of content while sharpening the focus of the message by leveraging creative repetition and life illustration. Creative repetition of truth disperses confusion while bringing clarity. Life illustrations, like the parables of Jesus, personalize truth. Clarity of information positions people for greater “in” “formation”. As Jesus brings “in” “formation” people will begin to live the Word and His mission. Hummm. Life change. Are we ready for that? 

Should we preach the Word? Yes, but our approach needs to change. 


Endnote:  For even deeper dialogue on this topic, read: The Big Idea: Focus the Message-multiply the Impact by Dave Ferguson



3 Responses

  1. Great write-up, Ron! Plenty to chew on regarding the status of teaching God’s Word in modern churches.

    In my experience, the premise that churches are calling for “more teaching of the Word” in order to effect transformation hasn’t been true. The problem in ministries I’ve experienced isn’t that there is too much information (“over-taught and under-applied”), but that the Word just isn’t taught. If the Word is taught, it is not the transformational truths of the Word – lest we accidentally make someone uncomfortable on Sunday morning or leave them with anything other than a happy feeling as they depart our building. So, the teaching of the “Word” ends up sounding a lot more like pop psychology. And more of that will never result in transformation.

    As Jesus discussed in the parable of the soils, another aspect to this seems to be that even if the Word is effectively taught (qualitative, creative repetition, etc.), there is still a highly likelihood that no transformation will occur unless the listener falls into the fertile soil category. Likewise, I suspect that even ineffective teaching of the Word would result in transformation for this listener. So, how do we create a field of fertile soil in our churches? My area of ministry is worship, and I know that helps produce fertile soil to hear the Word, as does prayer, but I’d be interested to hear of other ways to prepare hearts for transformation by the Word of God.

  2. Ken – Great thoughts and insight. The perspective of this blog is concerning churches that thoughtlessly throw the teaching of scripture against the wall and see what sticks – if anything. They teach to teach, because the word of God is powerful and effective, which it is, when handled correctly. The question is what does the Spirit of God want to accomplish in the listeners life? And how do bring intentionality to our teaching is such a way that creates a discipleship process that leads to complete redemption in Christ. Show we teach the word to just teach the word? Or should we partner with the Spirit of God to bring intentionality to our teaching to leads people to become disciples (apprentices of Jesus).

    The point you bring up concerning churches teaching psychobabble is a huge issue. An issue that I will address in a future blog.

    I love your final question: how do we prepare hearts for transformation by the Word of God? I so appreciated this question that I brought it up in our small group last night for discussion. The reason I brought it up, is because I believe the question needs to be answered on two levels. 1) corporate church (which I believe you where referring to), and 2) interpersonal. Again I believe this is a whole another blog – but here are three quick thoughts that came out of our conversation last night: 1) the Spirit of God working in peoples lives to form desire in them for transformation is a mystery 🙂 – I can’t explain it – I just experience God; 2) Transformation is birthed from desire – desire for God, to know, and to be transformed by God; 3) I believe on the corporate teaching or interpersonal side we can partner with the Spirit of God to form desire in people to be transformed by asking questions – questions that provoke their thoughts in such a way that they search for God. Keep in mind there is a mystery to how all of this works – how does the Spirit intersection with the physical world in emotion, body, and spirit? How do they interplay? What role does personal history or culture play into this? Above all – God says obey me – just obey me (faith) – and then you will understand (and even then I think our understanding is limited). He never says figure me out and then obey.

    Great thoughts. I hope my feedback keeps you thinking and wrestling with God as you continue to live Jesus mission on this earth.

  3. It’s like we’re on the same page or something… hmmm…. do you think it’s the heart of God?

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